Victorian London - Transport - Roads - Paving - street signs
Streets bearing the same names can be found in every district. There are at
least twenty Prince's Streets, Queen Streets, Charles Streets, etc. Then each
appellation is subdivided into lane, road, place, terrace, row, etc. and even
these are not necessarily adjacent. The street may be at one end of London, the
terrace at the other. It is most dreadfully confusing. When at last you have
located your street your troubles are not over. Numbers are carelessly painted,
sometimes illegible, or they may lurk playfully round the corner of some other
street as though having a game of hide and seek. It is impossible to remember a
house however often you have been to it as all the others are identical, and the
whole row seems to stare at you in derision with its shutterless windows like
glassy unblinking eyes. The name of the street is not indicated in a uniform way
as it is in Paris, but just haphazard - sometimes on one side only and in a
variety of letterings. As other inscriptions are also to be seen on walls and
houses the unwary foreigner is liable to make most ludicrous mistakes. The
adventures of the wretched Frenchman who most carefully copied out "Commit No
Nuisance" and gave it as his address are too well known to bear repetition, but
there is no reason why the story should not be perfectly authentic.
Francis Wey, A Frenchman Sees the English in the Fifties, 1935
The following report was presented by the surveyor to the Commissioners :— I beg
to report that, in pursuance of your instructions, I have permitted Messrs.
Powell, of the Whitefriars Glass Works to fix tablets bearing the names of
streets in certain of the public lamps within the city of London.
These tablets are formed of glass roughed upon one side, having the letters
which compose the names of the streets impressed upon the with other side. The
letters are filled up with black metallic colour, burnt in the general surface
of the tablets, and the names of the streets are easily discernible at night
when the lamps are lighted.
The public lamps in which the tablets have been placed are situated at the
S.W. end of Cornhill, the S.W. end of King-street and the N.E. end of
Queen-street, Cheapside; the corners of Ludgate-hill, Fleet-street and
Farringdon-street, and at the southern end of the Old Jewry.
They appear to answer their purpose exceedingly well, and are, I think,
likely to be very serviceable in directing strangers after day-light.
There is a scarcely a street or public thoroughfare within the city of
London which is not already provided with street tablets, and the public lamps,
owing to the narrowness of the footpaths, are frequently so near to them, that
they can be read after daylight, but there are many localities in which these
tablets can be placed with advantage to the public lamps.
It is not, I think, probable that tablets so placed will in this metropolis
supersede entirely the ordinary street tablets, as the size of the letter, owing
to the dimensions of the lamps, is very limited, but as their price is so very
small, it becomes well worthy of consideration whether they might not be used
extensively as adjuncts to the present tablets.
... The members expressed the opinion that the plan adopted by the surveyor
would be very serviceable in directing the foreigners and other strangers with
whom the metropolis will soon abound.
Times, March 19 1851